Chronicling the development of my Cambrian and Narrow Gauge 4mm scale model railway

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It’s been that sort of week. But today I managed to get some time here and there to push on with the standard gauge tonka tank. As mentioned previously, I decided to graft a 64xx cab onto the white metal body. It is a tad narrower than a 15xx cab but I can live with that for the added detail.

With the overly tall bufferbeam cut from the white metal bunker rear, it too was attached to the cab with the frame extension pieces.

Due to the donor nature of the chassis, with slightly modified dimensions, the sand boxes won’t fit as is so I’m going to re-profile them to fit into the space between the cab steps and the rear drivers. For the time being I’ve cut them off.

The chassis block was then cut down further to allow for the rear frame pieces.

With some fine tuning, the body now sits where it should. And I like the look.


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Arts and crafts

A small amount of progress. I’ve printed and cut out drawings of the Square to scale and have stuck them to some plasticard ready for cutting the sides, ends, tops, fuel tanks, boiler covers, cab parts, and fake well tanks.

What’s better then one Square? How about two!

There will be a fair amount of cutting out to do.

In the meantime to keep it flat I’ve stuck it under a heavy tome. This one in fact. Definitely heavy enough!

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Wee beastie

While the Fairlie was drying I got my 15xx out for continuation. Long time listeners will remember I started on this some time ago but had not revealed the big secret – using a proprietary chassis.

Well here it is. It’s a Hornby Thompson L1 chassis. The wheels are 0.5mm too big and the wheelbase about 2mm too long but I can live with that.

The hack isn’t for the faint hearted as it involves removing front and back from the chassis block, removing the motor front fixing bracket and then rotating the motor by 90 degrees so it sits wider but lower. The picture above shows the block shortened but prior to cutting down the motor fixing block and rotating the motor.

The white metal body then needs most of the underside removing too. However the result is worth it. The pictures below show first “about there” fitting with the saddle just placed under the smokebox for support. With some further fettling it’ll be good to go. I also couldn’t resist putting the chimney and s/v cover on just to see how it looks.

The pictures also show one decision I’ve made which is to remove the white metal cab and fit one from a Bachmann 64xx which is correct dimensionally apart from the footsteps being the wrong type, but generally the detail is much better and crisper on the 64xx.

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The stretch

Following the stabbing incident (see previous post), I resorted to milling and filing the remaining cast bits off the Fairlie kit, including cutting the manifolds off the top of the boiler barrel.

The bother with the Langley Fairlie kit, as I am sure many listeners are aware, is that it is the length of a pre-hunslet boiler Fairlie. When the FR invested in 2 double Fairlie boilers from Hunslet in the late 1960s for use on Merddin Emrys and Earl of Merioneth, Hunslet produced what is in effect 2 Ladies boilers back to back which means they are longer than the originals.

As an interesting aside, when David Lloyd George was produced, it reverted to an original length boiler, but the new boiler for James Spooner is Hunslet length as it is going to be the new “standard” although, as Ffestiniog regulars know, standard on the FR often refers just as much to one-offs as it does to standardisation.

This meant a cut and shut job with the Langley. However I still want the chassis to line up properly so instead of doing it in the firebox area I did it part way along each of the barrels and then will use the valence covers to mimic the longer fireboxes. To provide a stronger joint I cut the bodywork and the frame at different points. It’s a good thing the whole thing will be covered given the awful slant I managed in the cut in one end!

To provide further rigidity I used left over copper clad sleepers to provide joiners between the tank tops.

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Hello listeners. It has been a while. It’s all been a bit rubbish on the doing front over at Penlowry. The office move is taking a lot longer than originally planned which really doesn’t help. We finally found something the previous owner had stuck on / down we’ll – unfortunately it was the wallpaper in the room allocated for Pwnlowry’s new home. Added to which, corners had been cut, literally, in the application of the wallpaper. With that finally removed it was revealed the previous plaster had been put on with a tile trowel (not really but it wasn’t great) so now we’ve had a plasterer in to skim the walls. Hopefully the room will get painted shortly (yes it dried since the photo was taken) and then the move can take place.

Following such a tale of woe, there is some good news. Yesterday I managed to sort through my existing office which had become a bit of a dumping ground to such an extent that I now can resume some modelling activity.

Although I am working with a friend on a future 3D kit of Earl of Merioneth (his kit, not mine, I just get to be the guinea pig), I am still going to build the one I was going to do using a Langley kit as the base. This is because the one I want to do is in a hybrid (born out of wedlock-ised) condition which is slightly fictitious but more accurate to my time on the footplate and the one I’ll build with the prototype kit will be as original condition.

Last night I got a chance to dig the kit out and have a look. I’d forgotten how rough it is – mine had had all the fine details robbed (I got it cheap) but that’s fine as it allows me to replace them with decent stuff but I did spend the evening paring and filing vac pipes, handbrake, and regulators off the base castings. Well until I stabbed myself with a scalpel. Twice. Out of practice I am.

But just to finish here is a picture of 6320, the oil fired mogul, awaiting its new plates and cab shutters.

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Radio silence

Yes it has all been a bit quiet hasn’t it? There hasn’t been much time for modelling of late with plenty of other stuff to do. Half term saw MiniMe 1 build both the Lego bucket wheel excavator and Bugatti Chiron with me relegated to pieces-getter – Lego seems to think you need to be a teenager to do them but I’ve got a 6yo who loves his Technic, and the bigger the better. 

Work wise, the world is a bit topsy-turvy thanks to Chris Grayling’s jerky knee. Our usual work streams (franchising) have been a bit dry so we’ve been looking elsewhere. My main strength is strategy so I’m doing a fair amount on rolling stock and discontinuous electrification currently. 

However, with all the mayhem going on I thought I would join some dots up for you all on how and why we are where we are, and what will happen next (no one knows!)

Franchising – when the railway world changed in the years 1994-1996, there were quite a number of franchises. The list below might give you a twinge of nostalgia (maybe not!). These got reduced in number, some faster than others (such as Island Line being absorbed into South Western), while others have split off (such as Caledonian Sleeper being split from ScotRail).

You may also like this little table demonstrating how much the Govt pays for your ticket compared to how much you pay. Note that East Coast is currently the only one paying a premium back to the Government and also note the eye watering £100 the Govt subsidises every sleeper ticket by!

However, the franchising system has on the main remained fairly constant, and was not in itself a reason for the pause to carry out the Williams Rail Review, had a reasonable, and realistic approach to the competition been taken. The review was announced when it was, I believe, for one simple reason: Cross Country. The Cross Country franchise competition was about to begin and plenty of industry sources were telling us that only Arriva (the incumbent) and Stagecoach had expressed interest. All the others had already publicly, or privately, said they weren’t interested. 

Unfortunately, wind back a few months, and the Govt had decided to strip Virgin of East Coast (instead of running it under a management contract which is what many in the industry thought would have been a good idea). The Govt had done this because the reason Virgin couldn’t keep to its commitments is because it had overbid based on a timeline list published by the DfT of infrastructure improvements that Network Rail were supposed to do, despite the fact that most people in the industry knew they couldn’t be delivered in the times stated. Inevitably, Network Rail didn’t, which meant Virgin couldn’t, and the only way the Govt could deflect the attention of their failings through Network Rail was to direct it back onto Virgin by stripping the franchise off them – remember this “failure” cost Virgin East Coast £200m and didn’t cost the taxpayer anything. . 

Virgin East Coast was actually 90% Stagecoach and 10% Virgin. When an operator is stripped of its franchise, the owning group loses its “passport” to bid for franchises. This meant Stagecoach no longer could bid. The passport issuing committee meets every quarter so there was an opportunity for Stagecoach to get a new passport before the Cross Country franchise bid went live.

Unfortunately (again) industry sources tell us that one of the committee was still on maternity leave so the passport couldn’t be issued which meant Stagecoach couldn’t bid so the Govt was approaching a cliff edge of having to say they didn’t have enough bidders to run a competition for Cross Country. So to avoid having to admit a c0ck up, Mr Grayling paused franchising and launched the Williams Rail Review. 

So here we are, mid review. One thing we have all been sure that the review would say is that vertical integration might be a good thing. I mean it worked from the start of the railways until 1994 so it makes sense. Having the people who look after the track, signal the trains, and run the trains all in the same camp makes a modicum of sense. 

An argument against it has been the idea that breaking up Network Rail means a lack of joined up thinking. That’s a presumption that thinking can’t be joined up across company lines. However, rolling stock does have joined up thinking across multiple owners and operators – there are technical best practice groups to ensure that. Also, Network Rail has had since 1948 to be joined up and they’ve not managed it yet. The same standards are applied differently in different locations in the country, maintenance and renewals decisions are not co-ordinated. In fact, splitting it up may help to make it coordinated by forcing the introduction of best practice groups. (As an aside, my old boss from when I started on the railway cites the example that in BR days a fleet of EMUs was developed in one building not fitted with sanders, while in the building next door another team was proving that the lack of weight of modern EMUs meant that from now on they must all be built with sanders. There was no coordination between the teams until the new EMUs started SPADing all over the place and they then had to be retrofitted with sanders – proof that being in one organisation does not necessarily breed joined up thinking).  

Keith Williams, in his mid-review speech to the industry, said that the franchising model is broken. It is OK for someone to say something in a speech, but the next day DfT spread the news across their web front page.

How DfT now expects to award the East Midlands and South Eastern franchises, both of which are expected imminently, having publicly stated that franchising is broken remains to be seen. West Coast may escape the “franchising is broken” label as it is intended to be a deep partnership with both Network Rail and HS2 so may be considered a semi-vertical integration.

Andrew Haines, Head of Network Rail, did a 100 day review as part of him taking up the role. This resulted in him deciding to introduce regions and to devolve powers to those regions so they become self supporting. Keith Williams, in his speech said that he endorsed Network Rail’s plan. This is interesting as it suggests that whatever solution is recommended will fit into NR’s regions strategy. So here’s some thoughts on it.

On the right is the “new” Network Rail regions. On the left is the 1948 nationalisation regions. Seem familiar?! Interesting points include all of Wales becoming Western when originally it was split along the north Wales coast (and then later of course down the middle when the Cambrian transferred to LM); Derby – Crewe seems to be in Eastern – presumably because this route is served by East Midlands Trains, not by LNWR. 

From this presumption of the Rail Review using this new map, I produced a table of options.

Basically, are we going to end up with the Big Four? Well no, because Scotland and Wales have devolution and they’re not going to give them back! So we end up with the Big Six (apologies to Arthur Ransome). However, Transport for the North have fought hard for devolution of Northern and TPE services. Also interesting that NR’s regions map shows the routes for Eastern and LNW split between north and south already. Transport for the West Midlands (West Midlands Combined Authority) also have a stake in their services (what was Centro) so if that was split off as a concession you end up with something like either of the second two columns which have the East and West Coast Main Lines as either separate entities or combined with one of the other franchises – I personally think there is a drive to keep them separate – they are after all the true Intercity routes, so we may get something like the middle column. Or I may be talking complete rubbish.

What will the railways look like? We will find out in September!

And that is why I’ve not been doing any modelling. In the meantime though, my railcar did get into 009 news!

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Sleeping on the job

One of the skills I want to practice by building the Leven Canal diorama is scratch built track. It makes sense to c0ck this up on a diorama where nothing will move than on a proper piece of track first up.

Fortunately the Patriarch’s old stuff included copper clad strip as he was a bit of a dab hand and this.

In researching how the track should look I dig up some very useful PWay drawings on this website which included a drawing of NER interwoven sleepers on the S&C.

I therefore spent a quiet lunchtime gluing sleepers to the track diagram which in turn had been glued to the plywood board which I’m using to form the trackbed. I knocked up a quick handheld spaced job to keep the sleeper spacing something like equal. The glue is all temporary as I’ll lift it all back off again once soldered, paint the board and then mount it all properly.

Hopefully I’ve managed to get something of the interwoven sleepers looking right.